Charles E. Garvin had stopped breathing. Crouched in a fetal position on the floor where he had fallen after staggering from an electrical explosion, his pulse was pounding beyond measure.
A few minutes earlier, Garvin, an E-6 communications repairman from Spartanburg, S.C., had begun a routine maintenance check on U.S. Army typewriters that send and receive intelligence reports from outposts around the world.
Meanwhile, in the administative area room 237 at Arlington Hall Station's headquarters, approximately 10 members of the Intelligence Coordination Center for Army intelligence were meeting in a cramped, restricted area.
There was an explosion.
"At first we thought it was a car backfiring," said Spec. 4 Jeffrey N. Halen.
"Then we heard a scream. Everybody was frozen in place for a second," said Sgt. 1st Class Harvey Harris.
Everybody except Halen. "The next thing I knew, Garvin fell at my feet and I noticed he wasn't breathing," Halen said.
Halen stooped to check Garvin's vital signs. Halen recognized Garvin as an electrical shock victim from his experience as a volunteer with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue teams.
"I turned him over on his back. Then with my hands behind his neck, I tilted his head backward to free his air passage," said Halen.
Halen's quick and proper reactions, according to Sgt. Joseph Berry at the Fort Myer Radar Clinic, saved the 27-year-old Garvin's life.
The fire caused by the explosion wa small and posed no threat to the yellow brick collonaded building that once housed a private girls school before World War II. Now it is the headquarters for the Army intelligence and security command located off Rte. 50 and George Mason Drive in Arlington.
The incident occurred Dec. 3 while Garvin was working on five sets of twin typewriters. His hands were covered with lubricating oil and he was shuffling back and forth across the office carpet.
Fumes from the oil were leaking into the air and I guess a static discharge from the carpet ignited the expolsion," Garvin said later.
The next thing Garvin remembers is waking up "with a headache that wouldn't quit."
"I just remember waking up and seeing all those people hovering over me."
Halen continued to monitor Garvin's pulse until a medic from the base clinic and an Arlington County rescue squad arrived.
By that time the fire was out and Garvin was stirring. "He was kind of stubborn. He wanted to get up and go to the hospital on his own power, but I wouldn't let him. I told him he wasn't going anywhere without a stretcher," said Halen.
Upon his arrival at the Radar Clinic at nearby Fort Myer, Garvin was admitted for approximately two hours. An EKG exam confirmed that Garvin was all right so, like a good soldier, he went back to work.
In response to Halen's life-saving actions, Garvin said, "What can I say? I'm grateful and a lucky individual that someone was there who knew what they were doing."
A seven-year Army veteran, Garvin said his mishap caused little stir at home for his wife Kathy and their young daughter at 2913 Wickersham Way, Falls Church.
"They took it calmly because I was there when I told them about it and they could see I was all right," said Garvin.
Meanwhile Halen may soon have situations like the Garvin incident become part of his everyday life. In addition to his work in military intelligence, Halen, 21, wants to be a paramedic.
He is studying medical technology in a two-year program at Northern Virginia Community College, where he is pursuing an associate's degree while finishing the last year of his three-year enlistment.
Halen's company commander is considering recommending Halen for decoration for hid heroic act. But an Army spokesman said, "It is premature to say anything else."